The Nationals honored their minor league players of the year before Sunday’s regular season finale against the Pirates. Daniel Johnson and Wander Suero took home honors as the organizational player and pitcher of the year, respectively. Raudy Read was the Bob Boone Award recipient for the 2017 season.
Center fielder Johnson, 22, was a fifth-round selection in the 2016 draft out of New Mexico State. He spent 88 games at low Single-A Hagerstown and 42 games at high Single-A Potomac, hitting a combined .298 with 29 doubles, four triples, 22 homers, 22 stolen bases and 72 RBIs. He was very appreciative to be give the honor.
“It’s a blessing really,” Johnson said. “To be recognized for all the work you put in and the grind you went through all season. It’s a blessing.”
Johnson displayed lefty power from his 5-foot-10, 185 lbs., frame with the 55 extra-base hits and a .505 slugging percentage.
“I think just repetition helped,” Johnson said. “Getting comfortable with my swing. Not trying to do too much. Not trying to be a different player -- just me, the player I can be. Just trying to settle down and do what I can do.”
Suero has been with the organization longer than either Johnson and Read. The Dominican right-hander arrived in 2010. He has steadily built on that experience each season and at 26 years of age hopes to get a shot at the big-league club in 2018.
“I feel very excited and grateful,” Suero said through club interpreter Octavio Martinez. “More than anything, I thank God for the opportunity. Without him, nothing happens. I was able to stay healthy all year which is one of the biggest reasons I was able to win this award, which will be very important to my career.”
Suero performed well at Double-A Harrisburg in 2017. He went 0-1 with a 1.96 ERA for the Senators, with 23 strikeouts in 23 innings, and 10 saves. He then pitched in 36 games for Triple-A Syracuse, going 3-1 with a 1.70 ERA and 10 saves.
Suero believes he is ready to pitch for the Nats.
“I was given the opportunity to produce all season long,” Suero said via Martinez. “I can’t control what happens with the decisions the organization makes about who goes up. I was working very hard all season long, as I usually do.
“I personally think I was very capable of pitching up here in the big leagues. But that’s out of my control, out of my hands. But that just makes me work harder in the offseason and prove to them that I am able and ready to pitch up here. When I get that opportunity, I’ll take advantage of it.”
Suero said he has refined each of his pitches to the point that he has confidence in throwing any of them at any particular point in the count.
“I feel like in general, I improved on all my pitches,” Suero said. “They all got better. My cutter was the biggest pitch in my arsenal, and I feel like I control it a lot better and it did improve.
“One other thing was my change-up. I was not using it very often, especially down in Potomac. But this year, in Syracuse, I realized I needed another pitch to complement the other ones. I started using the change-up a lot.”
Read was called up in September and has played in eight games with the Nats, hitting .273. The 23-year-old hit .265 in 108 minor league games in 2017, with 25 doubles, one triple, 17 homers and 61 RBIs.
“It’s just such a blessing,” Read said via Martinez. “I thank God for this opportunity and this award. Of all the minor league players, us three were able to get recognized and earn these awards. So, I thank the organization for those awards.”
“I’ve learned a lot from the veterans here,” Read said. “I’ve noticed that the game up here is a lot faster than down here. There’s more of a seriousness to it about winning. Everyone takes pride in what they do. I’ve learned a lot from that, about how to go about your preparation and everything. But more than that, I’ve learned a lot from the other guys that can help for next season.”